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Book Reviews

How Israel Lost: The Four Questions, 

by Richard Ben Cramer


Simon and Schuster, reviewed in The New York Observer

This really happened: I had been serving as arts and culture editor of the Forward,

 the nation’s leading Jewish newspaper, for almost two years when the famously leftist editor, author of eloquent and thoughtful editorials, came across the galley of a review he didn’t like. He summoned me to his office and treated me to a side I’d never seen before, bulging veins and all. What did I mean, he sputtered, assigning a respected literary critic to assess a collection by a dovish Palestinian poet? Well, I explained, it made for an interesting addition to the section, helping to nondemonize the enemy and allowing the reader to…read more

My Name Is Bill: Bill Wilson and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous

by Susan Cheever


Simon and Schuster, reviewed in The New York Observer

He demanded a drink on his deathbed. Yes, in the final days of his long, knotty life, after 36 years of hard-fought sobriety and public battle against the demon rum, the man behind Alcoholics Anonymous demanded a drink—several, actually, with increasing belligerence, even going so far as to threaten to punch the nose of the nurse who denied him. But whether you think this doozy of a detail puts the lie to Bill Wilson’s mission or merely reinforces the tortured heroism of an all-too-human visionary could hinge on whether or not you’ve read Susan Cheever’s sympathetic biography, My Name Is more


by Curtis Sittenfeld


Random House, reviewed in The New York Observer

Yo, prep-school papa! You with the gray hair and rueful smile, dropping your little bundle of neuroses off at her boarding school after the long Christmas break. You think no one was watching? You think no one saw how you jumped on the cell to your mistress before you were even down the cobblestone drive? Think again. Could be that a gimlet-eyed novelist posing as a 14-year-old student was checking out your every more

Home Land

by Sam Lipsyte


Picador USA, reviewed in New York Magazine


Slacker narrators have never been the most appealing literary subgroup. Sad sacks by definition, sluggish by inclination, these goopy self-obsessives display little moral complexity and even less wit. Lewis “Teabag” Miner, the wiggy epistolary narrator of Sam Lipsyte’s new novel, Home Land, is the exception who proves the rule—indeed, with any luck, he could be the one to retire it, and make aimless American middle-aged men respectable literary figures once more

The Dew Breaker

by Edwidge Danticat


Alfred A. Knopf; reviewed in The New York Observer


Only a few hours away by luxury jet lies an island paradise of palm trees and warm sand where the air itself feels forgiving. Lovely chocolate-skinned women wear pink nightgowns, jacarandas grow wild and the customary old-fashioned way to say "You’re welcome" is to say "You’re deserving." It’s a charmed place where "the rain is sweeter, the dust is lighter," and the clouds in the sky are said to be caused by dear, departed relatives eating coconuts with God. Eating Coconuts with God, in fact, wouldn’t be a bad title for a lighthearted book about such a quaintly blessed place. Except there’s a hitch: Bloodshed is more

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